18 April 2024
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What does a decade of driving innovation and the use of legal technology in a law firm look like?

To The Point
(4 min read)

In the first of a series of blog posts, Kerry Westland, (Partner, Head of Innovation & Legal Technology) reflects on the last 10 years of technology and innovation at the firm and the work she has done over the years to help colleagues deliver legal services differently.

I was reminded this week that it's been 10 years since I accidentally became the legal tech person at Addleshaw Goddard. I joined the firm over 13 years ago now and throughout all of that time I've been working with colleagues across the teams to deliver legal services differently.

Early days

That went to a whole other level in 2014 when we had to review thousands and thousands of contracts for a large due diligence exercise. To manage this we had to have a technology solution. It couldn't be managed by a word document per contract review. This is where Apple's Filemaker comes in. Have you heard of it? I'm not even sure where it is nowadays but it was the only solution that we had to allow a team of 50 people to review contracts in a way we could have useable output. Apart from one thing - two people could be in one record and amend it, overwriting each other's work. This wasn't workable, so I spent a weekend trying to work out how to do this, found some code, which worked and away we went...

When I look back at that now, I can't quite believe how far we've come. This was before any AI was used in legal work, that came about 18 months later! It was before there were any dynamic dashboards in any of the tools we know now. In fact for one job, we had to hard code some dashboards and I'll always remember when I demoed it to a client and they almost fell off their chairs in disbelief - law in pie charts - it was quite new and novel then!
2014/15 was when this kernel of a technology team came about. Slowly, by picking some amazing people, we had a team whose full focus was on managing large projects that needed a technology angle. On pushing the platforms we had to do more and more. (Some of those suppliers will remember the days of hourly phone calls about how we might get something to work!).

Going official

That kernel officially popped and became the Innovation & Legal Technology team in 2017 (about 6 months after we first bought AI into the firm). And how that team grew, the client projects we did and the developments we created amaze me. We allowed people to qualify whilst doing innovation, we created a trainee rotation the same year the team was created and have seen a number of people come through team every six months, we added an apprenticeship rotation, we created a grad scheme and continued to find fresh new talent through that with 9 new grads due to join us this coming June. We went from everyone doing everything to having 8 pillars of focus.

We work on large, headline grabbing client projects; we sell things like our legal front door and data transfer express tools; we work with colleagues across the business to bring in tools that help them every day, be that automation or transaction management tools; we constantly scan the market for what's new and what's missing in our armoury.

The Innovation Group

And then at the end of last year we evolved again. We joined forces with the AG Consulting Team and our Knowledge & Research Services team and we created our Managed Legal Services offering and became the Innovation Group.

We are now able to combine forces and what a force that is - we can help clients with the development of their own team, offering training programmes bespoke to their needs. We help clients with their structure and focus as a legal team, ensuring that they are demonstrating the immense value they bring to their business, helping them benchmark their function against others, coaching them through change. We work with clients on their own legal technology or knowledge journey - helping them with their selection, implementation and configuration of their own technology. We bring together our lawyers' knowledge and technology to ensure our colleagues and clients have the best tools at hand - creating things such as sector specific horizon scanning tools or how to deliver board ready legal advice. And we work with clients to understand the workstreams that can be augmented by technology and process - helping them with their large scale remediation or repapering projects or with ongoing contracting, property or employment work.

A decade On

So ten years later it amazes me when I join the Innovation Group team calls and see over 70 (soon to be 80) faces staring back at me! I think about how far we've come. I think about the amazing projects we've been doing. I think about all of the great clients we get to speak to every day. I think about how those people who have come along this crazy, unchartered journey have grown and developed. I think about how manic the last 18 months have been - where we've been able to use the foundations we've built over the last decade to quickly put time into how Generative AI will affect legal - all of that hard work in the years before, meant we were well placed to figure out what to do there.

And I think about where we are going. I think about how the developments of the last 18 months have supercharged what we've been doing for the last decade and how that will continue to affect all of our clients and our colleagues. I keep being asked where we might be in 12 months. And I'm not 100% sure of the answer. But I'm confident that what we've built in the Innovation Group at Addleshaw Goddard puts us in the most fantastic position to deal with what that is. I really couldn't be luckier to have the team around me that I do. And am excited to see what the next 10 years will bring.

In the next few weeks you'll hear more from Elliot White, Dr. Gregory Bott, Jamie Whalebone and Richard Gaston who will share more details about the teams they lead and their plans as part of the Innovation Group.

To the Point 

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